Now, the real work begins

A government’s budget is arguably the most important work its leaders do.

Whatever policy prescriptions lawmakers hash out mean nothing if they can’t later agree on the money it takes to enact or enforce those policies. The state’s decades-old unfunded — and unaccomplished — mandate for annual fire inspections is proof enough of that.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday unveiled her first budget since taking office New Year’s Day. We won’t take a position here on the specifics –a 45-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike and $507 million more for the state’s K-12 schools the biggest-ticket items –but we will say this: Now, the real work begins.

Though they hated some of the numbers he gave them, schools statewide praised Gov. Rick Snyder for signing budgets months in advance, giving schools –who are three months into their own fiscal years by the time the state’s begins –enough time to plan their own spending. But it’s easier –we won’t say it’s easy — to do that when both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by your party.

Whitmer doesn’t have that luxury. She’s a Democrat and Republicans control both the state House and the state Senate, making bipartisanship and compromise a must to keep the state up and running. State government shut down repeatedly the last time it was split between two parties.

On Monday, when advance copies of Whitmer’s budget proposal were making the rounds in the press, some GOP lawmakers already were balking at her proposals. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said he’d “first like the governor to work with the Legislature to save families money by reforming car insurance” before voting on any gas tax hike.

We understand and respect the policy and priority differences between Whitmer and her colleagues across the aisle, but we encourage all of them to roll up their sleeves, approach negotiations with open minds, and get to work.

Michigan must stay open for business.